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Hon. Christopher H. Smith, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
May 8, 2012


WASHINGTON– The United States Helsinki Commission announced today a briefing on the situation of political prisoners in Central Asia.


“Political Prisoners in Central Asia”

Date: Tuesday May 15, 2012

2:00 p.m.

Location: Rayburn House Office Building

Room 2203

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have some of the highest numbers of political prisoners in the former Soviet Union. While each country in Central Asia is different, there are worrying trends among all five.  In Uzbekistan, human rights activists, journalists, and members of certain religious groups fall victim to restrictive laws and policies. In Turkmenistan, would-be political opposition and human rights activists are targeted. In Kyrgyzstan, trials following ethnic violence in June 2010 have been biased against ethnic Uzbeks and human rights activists supporting them. Tajikistan has enacted a restrictive religion law, and Kazakhstan has arrested political opposition figures in the wake of a violent crackdown on protesters late last year.

While some governments claim that ensuring stability and fighting extremism are paramount, laws restricting political participation, independent journalism, civil society, and freedom of religion may have the opposite effect. This briefing will look at these trends, as well as the conditions under which such prisoners are kept.


Dr. Sanjar Umarov, Chairman of the Sunshine Coalition and former political prisoner

Cathy Cosman, Senior Policy Analyst, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

** BRIEFER ADDED: Muzaffar Suleymanov, Europe and Central Asia Research Associate, Committee to Protect Journalists


The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and

Media Contact: Shelly Han
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Freedom of Association
Freedom of Speech and Expression
Freedom of the Media
Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion or Belief
Prevention of Torture
Rule of Law/Independence of Judiciary


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Chairman Chris Smith (L), Bill Browder, author of Red Notice, and David Kramer, Senior Director for Human Rights and Human Freedom at the McCain Institute. Courtesy of The McCain Institute for International Leadership. (Feb. 2015)